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`No trade war' for US and China

In a last-ditch attempt to avert a trade war over copyright piracy, the United States and China will resume talks on 13 February, the US Trade Secretary Mickey Kantor announced yesterday. "Let me reiterate that piracy of US products is an extremely serious problem," Mr Kantor said. He added that he expected the Chinese to come to the negotiating table prepared to address US concerns over protection of computer software, chemical and agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, trademarks, audiovisualworks, books and periodicals. On Saturday the US said 100-per-cent tariffs on $1.08bn (£700m) of Chinese imports would take effect on 26 February because China had failed to address flagrant abuses of international copyright laws. China hit back with its own list of sanctions.

Yesterday US businessmen in Peking were optimistic, many pointing out that Sino-US trade disputes in the past had been settled after sanctions had been formally imposed but before they took effect.

In Jerusalem, the US Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown, also played down the situation. "It is a gross over-statement to call the relationship between China and the United States one of trade war. We are not in a trade war at all."

The Hong Kong stock exchange also took the view that the three-week grace period before 26 February was a sign that both sides were keen to reach a deal if possible. The Hang Seng index jumped 5.6 per cent, a robust performance after weeks of worry abouttrade wars, US interest rates and the health of Deng Xiaoping.